Saturday, 23 July 2016

My French Adventure (Part 7)

Cable cars at Pas de l'Oeille
Day 7. My final full day of exploring this wonderful mountain region of France. And what better way to end this adventure then by going to the top of one via a cable car. We went to the ski resort at Pas de l'Oeille to do some real alpine hiking. We travelled up to the top of a plateau using a cable car, but once there, it was pure hard core hiking all the way.

Riding the cable car to the top

That's one way back down, I guess!
 It did not fair well for me, however. As a person who lives in a flat county, I am no experienced rambler and even with a hiking stick, I was not full of confidence to walk this rugged landscape. I was following the group along the path of loose stones, when I suddenly lost my footing, causing me to slip and fall. I felt myself flying into the air momentarily. My legs forced to cross each other by the force of gravity and then I landed onto the side of my backside with a thump. I was badly bruised around my hip and thigh and it hurt just a little bit. But up on a mountain, even a minor injury such as bruise can be amplified. As I attempted to continue following the group and ramble over rough rocky terrain, my bruised area was becoming more and more unbearable and I was struggling to keep up.
Alpine Marmot

Alpine Ibexes
This was worrying. We were already far from the safety of the cafĂ© by the cable car station and there was no way I could continue any further. I ended up sitting on a rock for a while to rest. We all gathered around an area of rocks by a large cairn (a pile of rocks made as a marker for hikers) and we scanned the surrounding area for wildlife. We found citril finches, alpine marmots and a large herd of alpine ibexes. Ibexes were once hunted to near extinction by the 19th century, but today they have recovered thanks to reintroduction projects across the Alps and they are now thriving once more up amongst the rocky cliffs of the mountains. The herd that we were watching were mostly females with the odd male, though they were busy sleeping to reveal their impressive horns for us to see.

Mountain Ringlet feeding on the sun cream off my leg!
Unable to continue, I agreed to stay put around the area of the large cairn while the others went on to explore the next ridge. I watched them as they hiked up a steep slope from my rock that I was sitting on, disappearing one by one over the top of the ridge. I was now alone. The sun was hot and there was barely any shade to shelter under. The sun cream and sweat that covers my body was attracting insects that were feeding on it to extract vital minerals that were otherwise lacking in their diet. This included a mountain ringlet that would not leave my legs alone. Eventually, after some time, Byron came back for me and took me back to civilization for an ice cream and a drink.
My group leaving me behind!
Ghost Orchid
With some pain still in my leg while walking, I decided that it was best that I returned to the hotel and rest. For the rest of the group, they wanted to return to the sloped forest where we tried to find ghost orchids earlier in the week for one last attempt. They succeeded!! And though I wasn't there in person, I gave them my camera and took these photos of the ghost orchids and of another helleborine called Epipactis microphylla for me. You could say that I was there in spirit!

Eppiactis microphylla
This was a great way to conclude what has been a brilliant adventure in the Vercors. The mountain scenery has been stunning and the wildlife we encountered was amazing and diverse. We saw many of the species we were hoping to see (except wallcreepers) as well as many that are considered rare in the UK. I'd like to thank Naturetrek for organizing it, the two guides, Paul and Byron for showing everything they could find to me, the hotel staff that looked after us with always a smile on their faces and the lovely bunch of people that I shared this grand adventure with. I had a fantastic time (though I would love to forget the two tumbles I've had during the week). Let's hope I will have another adventure just like this one in the future and of course, I will share it all with you on this blog.

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